SkyMall isn't exactly flying high these days. Between May and September of last year, the iconic in-flight catalog lost $3.2 million, and the Los Angeles Times has one explanation: While the catalog still reaches 600 million flyers yearly thanks to the seat-back pocket, that audience is no longer "captive," the paper notes. While passengers once had little else to turn to for entertainment, travelers can increasingly use their devices in-flight—and analysts say the company needs to step up its game if it wants to avoid the fate of the Sears catalog. SkyMall's CEO, Kevin Weiss, agrees: "Like everything else, we have to evolve," he says.
The company is getting a $2.5 million technological facelift, the Times reports. It will improve its website and offer catalogs with items that readers can purchase by scanning them with their phones. Another issue, says a retail consultant, is a need to vary its product selection. "How many elevated pet food bowls do I need?" he asks. But SkyMall doesn't plan to stop selling what it likes to call "the coolest stuff on the planet." Future items could include a toddler-friendly "shoulder saddle" for parents or beach pillows that hide beer. "We want people to look through the catalog and say, 'Oh, my God, why didn't I think of that?'" says a product manager. (Read more SkyMall stories.)